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Showing posts from November, 2016

Rank 'em: The X-Men Films

My last post about X-Men: Apocalypse started me thinking: how would I rank all of the X-Men films to date? Ranking pop culture stuff is always fun, after all, so let's do this. Note, these are my wholly subjective opinions and the list is more about which are my favorites or least favorites than trying to measure their quality objectively. That list would probably look very similar to this one anyway. But then I think about X-Men Origins: Wolverine, a film I can't objectively call "good," but that I enjoy nonetheless. And yes, I'm including the solo X-Men films in this list because they're all part of the same cinematic universe.

1. X2: X-Men United

X2 has long been considered the best of the bunch and while I'd like to offer a contrary opinion, I tend to agree with that assessment. It's the most taut and cohesive film of the franchise, probably because it keeps a relatively narrow focus throughout. The basic premise, inspired by the classic God Loves,…

Random Observations on X-Men: Apocalypse

I finally saw X-Men: Apocalypse recently. After reading so little positive feedback about the film since it released in May, my expectations were low. They were lowered further by my lukewarm response to the X-Men films. If X2 is the apex of the franchise (and it is, no question), then Last Stand is the absolute nadir. It's been ten years since I saw it but I'm still can't talk about it without raising my voice and swearing. It shat upon my favorite comic book story of all time, after all. So, I like some of these films, dislike others, but tend to find something entertaining in nearly every one of them—except for Last Stand. No way.

As for last entry in the series, Days of Future Past, I enjoyed it fine. As with most of the films in the franchise though, when I apply even the slightest bit of critical scrutiny to it, the entire thing falls apart like a house of cards. So I'm not sure I'd say it was a good film, but I found it entertaining. After seeing Apocalypse

Barely Making a Dent: November 2016 Books

In which our narrator tries to read his way through the endless stacks of books that are slowly overtaking both his bookshelves and his life.

I broke down and ordered a tall five-shelf bookcase earlier this week. It's nothing fancy, but it should help consolidate some of the backlog of books from around the house. Now we can set aside one of our smaller bookcase for the kids' room, too. I'm antsy for it to be delivered so I can make some progress with the book piles. Note, in this instance "progress" means "Moving books from one place to another" as opposed to "Getting rid of any books." Baby steps, right?

Currently reading

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin. Having read and been perplexed by this book in college, I haven't revisited it since. But it's lingered with me all these years. In college I may have been too young to grasp what she was doing here, but I was certainly fascinated by it. I hadn't read anything quite l…

Five Years

I saw it written and I saw it say Pink moon is on its way And none of you stand so tall Pink moon gonna get ye all
When you hear the words, "It's cancer," your mind seems to burst open, as if every thought you've ever had is rushing back into your brain at once, each crowding for space until finally your head can't contain them all. That lasts for several seconds, followed by the arrival of an eerie tranquility: you've gone numb. I experience this first hand in October 2011. It's at that moment that my life is bisected into two halves: the years before and after cancer. I'm scheduled to have surgery to remove the tumor quickly, in just over a week. The next several days are surreal, I'm walking through my life but there's a giant, ever-expanding hole in it now. I can feel the vast blackness of it creeping closer to me every minute of every day. I only tell certain people what's going on, mostly because I have no idea how to talk abo…

Resist attempts at normalization

Words matter. This notion that campaign rhetoric is meaningless is disturbing for several reasons. The implication is that you either voted for someone you thought was spewing nonsense, or that you believed his irresponsible and dangerous rhetoric and wanted to see him follow through on it.

We're losing a president who was thoughtful, kind, compassionate, intelligent, and had a sense of humor. We didn't have to agree with all of his policy decisions to realize he was, at heart, a good man. We're trading him in for a bully, a misogynist, a racist, a man who played off of people's fears of the Other to ride a wave of hate into office.

His rhetoric is now being normalized all over the place. That's dangerous. He and others need to be held accountable for what they say. Words have meaning and impact. Chances are the people who don't see this now, will see it in time once the president-elect fails to follow through on any of his unrealistic promises.

It's been …

Video killed the rental store

Did you appreciate the video rental store while you had it? Probably not. Instead you simply spent nearly every Friday night (and usually Saturday night, too) meandering around inside its walls looking for VHS tapes to rent. You'd browse as if you'd never been there before, always on the lookout for something new or old that you'd missed the previous week.

You tried to impress friends with your knowledge of cinema, something that any teenager can fake to another teenager because neither know a damn thing about anything yet. But you did know what movies you liked, even if you couldn't express why, exactly. That would come later, with more critical viewings on your own and in high school and then college film courses. For now, you only knew what films made you feel something—happy or sad or scared or excited or confused. Those were the movies you rented repeatedly.

In time the sleek and shiny (yet semi-soulless) DVD crowded the ugly and clunky (yet semi-charming) VHS of…


Have you ever wanted to hug a pop music icon as much as you wanted to hug Janet Jackson in, say, 1990? She exuded warmth, soul, and acceptance. Hell, years before that you wanted to save her on Good Times. Oh, Penny! Little did you know, she didn't need saving.

Look at the videos for "Love Will Never Do" or "Escapade"—her smile shines brighter than a thousand suns. She practically radiates happiness in those videos. Certainly she could be as serious as a heart attack—"State of the World" and "Rhythm Nation," for instance—but she was always still fun. Those songs set up residence in your heart and mind, never leaving. Back then you marveled at them as they premiered on MTV; each one more insanely catchy than the last.

Name a better pop love song from the last twenty-five years than "Love Will Never Do (Without You)." See, you can't. What's often forgotten now is how heavy her songs were during her prime—the beats on "L…

"My destiny lies in the stars:" The Dark Phoenix Saga

The book stared back at me from an aisle end cap in a local bookstore in upstate New York. It was 1984 but my memory is foggy on the exact time of year, so I was either eight or nine years old. The arresting cover hooked me immediately. Big bold block letters announced "The Uncanny X-Men." The gorgeously painted cover, by legendary artist Bill Sienkiewicz, featured characters I wasn't yet familiar with but who would quickly be among my favorites—Jean Grey (Phoenix), Wolverine, Kitty Pryde, Nightcrawler, and more. At this point I was already reading science fiction, fantasy, and comic books. This volume would be the spark that ignited my lifelong affinity for the Marvel mutants.

My mother saw the look in my eyes as I held the trade paperback in my small hands. To her eternal credit, she purchased the book for me that day. I would read it cover to cover, over and over again, for months. I didn't just read the story; I absorbed it directly into my system until I could …